For the last night of the convention, President Donald Trump did something unusual — he largely stayed on script and on message. For a candidate who has always trusted his own political instincts, this was notable.
The President’s decision to shy away from his raucous campaign rally speaking style is the most compelling evidence that he believes he is losing this race.
It has been hard to pinpoint what percentage of voters support the President’s policy positions but are wavering in their support because they dislike his exaggerated rhetoric and constant Twitter attacks.
These voters do not like the direction of the Democratic Party, fearing it is being pulled too far left, but they are embarrassed by Trump. And if they stay home in November, Trump will lose.
The Trump campaign doesn’t need to win back Biden voters. But it does need to convince Trump-friendly voters to turn out to vote for him.
And his speech on Thursday night was for them.
Though the final night of the RNC featured a video of Democrats for Trump, the substance of Trump’s speech itself was targeted to those more likely to fit inside the Republican tent. In fact, his speech had something for almost all of his supporters — immigration, religious liberty, free speech, jobs and the economy.
But behind the words and policy promises was another message. By staying on script, he told those who support his policies, if not his style, that they can ignore his detractors who have claimed he is unfocused and unhinged behind the scenes.
Roxanne Jones: Trump makes a convention play to split Black votes
The Republican National Convention ended exactly the way it began—with a hard push for votes from Black men.
On the fourth and final night, President Donald Trump made it clear he’s betting on Black men to help him retake the White House by showcasing Black Americans from every walk of life offering heartfelt, pre-recorded video messages, as well as a host of Black speakers pledging their allegiance to the President from a podium.
Either option could mean a win for Trump come November.
Trump sees an opening for attack and has put Black men squarely at the center of his campaign, telling America on Thursday night, “I have done more for the Black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.
“And I have done more for the Black community than Joe Biden has done in 47 years,” adding that he is “ready to welcome millions of Democrats” into the Republican Party.
We are vulnerable. Trump knows this, and he has spent nearly four years stoking racial and gender divisions. Sadly, it is no secret that sexism and misogyny run deep in the Black community. Trump will use this to his advantage.
As it was in 2016 for Hillary Clinton it will be again in 2020 — this time for Kamala Harris, the first Black woman ever to run for Vice President: sexism will be on the ballot.
Whether it wins again is anybody’s call.
Scott Jennings: Trump delivers in a speech that capped a successful convention
Republicans capped off a successful week with President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech tonight — heavy on reciting his administration’s accomplishments and on contrasting his record and plans with Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The evening produced several powerful moments. Alice Johnson, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump in 2018, gave a wonderful speech about faith, hope, and redemption.
Her testimony on the President’s commitment to criminal justice reform reminded Americans of one of Trump’s best and most bipartisan accomplishments.
Ann Dorn, the widow of slain St. Louis police officer David Dorn, gave one of the most gut wrenching and memorable speeches I’ve ever heard at a political convention. It was stunning to listen to her retell the night of her husband’s death.
The President’s rather lengthy, meandering speech — ably introduced by his daughter and senior advisor, Ivanka — was serviceable, but could have used some editing.
It delivered on serious contrasts and laid down key markers on taxes, education, abortion, and public safety — the last of which will obviously be a centerpiece of the campaign. The President drew a line in the sand over controlling American cities, but made clear he won’t tolerate bad policing.
“We must remember that the overwhelming majority of police officers … are noble courageous and honorable,” he said, adding, “When there is police misconduct the justice system must hold wrongdoers fully and completely accountable.”
Ultimately, the convention delivered a key message on which the Democrats whiffed last week. Republicans can tell the difference between those who seek peace and anarchists, and will not tolerate unjust acts no matter where they are committed.
The President took aim at a topic that served him well in 2016 — political correctness — and added the element of cancel culture as well. He was smart to include this.
Ultimately, Trump did get around to laying out some second term priorities at the conclusion of his speech. I wish he had gotten to it earlier, because he needs to convince people that four more years on his watch will make people’s lives better. His agenda was perfectly fine but will need to be further fleshed out in the days ahead.
All in all, a successful GOP convention is in the books and now we see whether two weeks of political speeches made a lick of difference in the national political environment, or if the electorate is too ossified to be moved much at all.
SE Cupp: RNC’s fearmongering might work among undecided voters
Will President Donald Trump’s RNC expand his base of voters? That’s the question many political operatives have been asking this week, and one they say is really the only one that matters.
I think the answer is probably yes.
For those of us who are political analysts, it’s hard to remember that most people aren’t paying as close attention as we are to every word Trump utters.
Most of the people don’t catalogue Trump’s many abuses the way we are, nor are they keeping master lists of his lies and failed promises.
They’re paying attention, naturally, to what’s going on in their backyards, from economic concerns to crime in their communities.
If some undecided or unaffiliated voters tuned into the RNC they would have heard countless falsehoods, exaggerations and a total whitewashing of Trump’s failed presidency.
The RNC painted a picture of an administration that had completely eradicated myriad scourges, including Covid-19, ISIS, the Middle East conflict, unemployment, the opioid crisis, criminal over-sentencing, sexism, racism and a swamp that needed draining — and Trump alone deserves all the credit.
Neither is true, nor does it tell the story of Trump’s corruption, incompetence, nepotism, cronyism, abuses of power and lawlessness.
But they also would have heard speakers paying lip service to issues they care about. And fear is a powerful motivator — sometimes more than the truth.
The fear that the RNC fomented and drew on this week was likely impactful for Americans who are — rightly or wrongly — worried about bad trade deals, disappearing manufacturing jobs, overregulation, endless wars, violence in their towns, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and a ruling class that thinks of them as loathsome.
Trump hasn’t shown an interest in expanding his base over the past four years, but the RNC produced a show that sure looked as if it did. Night four opened with testimonials from lifelong Democrats who were voting for Trump, featured multiple voices of people of color, women, and even inner-city public housing representatives — not typically the allies of Republican politicians.
Little of what the RNC speakers threatened Joe Biden or Democrats would do — including defunding the police — is 100% true. Some of it, in fact, is provably false. But it doesn’t have to be true to be effective. And I’m sure for some voters who are just now tuning in, it was.
Keith Boykin: Fear and loathing in Trump’s America
Donald Trump’s speech Thursday night may have been one of the longest and darkest convention speeches given by a sitting US president in recent history. But even with all the lies, the misinformation and the hypocrisy, what stood out most was the racism
He preached a fear of violent criminals taking over American cities, a fear of non-white immigrants invading our country, and a fear of progressives changing America’s traditions.
“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” Trump warned, without even a hint of irony that the very problems he decried were taking place in Donald Trump’s America right now.
Trump amplified the decibel level of what had once been quiet dog whistles into a loud and aggressive bullhorn, warning fearful white Americans that radical left socialists, anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners are coming to get you.
He took no responsibility for the violence and division in America. That, he argued, was the fault of Democratic leaders who refused to stand up to protesters. And he took no responsibility for the millions who had lost their jobs in this recession. That was because of Democratic governors who shut down their states.
Keith Boykin is a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton and a CNN political commentator.
Julian Zelizer: The RNC strategy has a chance
President Donald Trump entered the Republican National Convention facing a major problem — how to deal with the fact that the nation is still suffering through a devastating pandemic, which his administration has largely failed to combat.
Yet the President and the Republican Party had a plan — try to reshape the way that voters understood the cold, hard facts in front of them.
When convention speakers did acknowledge the challenges of Covid-19, they often talked about it as a receding health and economic threat. Presenting the President as an effective leader who handled the crisis, Republicans argued that we had entered a new phase of recovery and revitalization.
When convention speakers weren’t painting a rosy picture of our public health situation, they spoke about a threat to law and order that they portrayed as superseding anything happening in American hospitals or homes.
Speakers like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argued that America has become a country threatened by violent crime and radical Democrats. Other surrogates warned of lawless protesters on the streets who, they claimed, are attacking innocent citizens and of a progressive mob who, they argued, now controls the Democratic Party.
Their strategy might work. Much of the country has been worn down by the impact of the pandemic, and many voters may want a leader who can either assuage their fears the virus still looms or who can divert their attention to other issues altogether.
Democrats have to hope that the RNC strategy doesn’t take hold in key swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan. If Democrats are able to keep the tragic consequences of Trump’s handling of the pandemic front and center through November — without allowing the Trump campaign attacks to distract them — they will still be in a strong position to help Joe Biden win the White House. If not, Trump may have a real shot at reelection.
Frida Ghitis: The final night of the RNC was a profoundly sad night for America
The capstone of the Republican National Convention featured the Trump campaign again brazenly violating the norms of the United States by staging a political convention on the grounds of the White House.
The decision to hold the event there broke with hundreds of years of tradition, as Trump continues to use every tool of the presidency to advance his reelection effort.
Like the other three nights, the final night brought a torrent of lies from speaker after speaker — from Kevin McCarthy to Ivanka Trump — each ludicrously pumping up Trump’s “accomplishments” to an unrecognizable and grotesque degree.
Of course, politicians exaggerate and mislead, but this was on another level.
Why would the Trump campaign go to such lengths to create a fictional heroic character out of a sitting president? Why would they take such pains to completely twist the positions of their moderate Democratic rivals?
The obvious explanation is that Trump and his team have concluded that not enough voters will support the President if he acknowledges who he and Joe Biden really are. That’s why they had to create false identities for both candidates.
As in previous nights, we heard a description of a Trump that doesn’t exist — the hardworking, compassionate, advocate of diversity, dedicated to national unity.
After almost four years of his political leadership, we know Trump. And that’s not him.
Take the Trump claim that chaos will come if Biden is elected. The fact is that social unrest began under Trump’s presidency. Or the completely false assertions that Trump did a stellar job protecting against the pandemic. The facts prove precisely the opposite, and most Americans know it.
The temptation to fact-check every lie is hard to resist. But there is not enough space or time to scoop up and analyze cup after cup out of that raging river of deceit.
The final night of the RNC was a profoundly sad night for America, another lurch away from what used to be its reverence for democracy, and a reminder of why the 2020 election is an existential test for the United States as we know it, the America we still remember.
Paul Begala: From American carnage to American chaos
What is the counter-narrative to American Carnage II? To me, it seems to be American Chaos I. Riots are by definition chaos, and Democrats want to make chaos Trump’s brand.
This tactical battle — carnage versus chaos — could be pivotal to winning the White House.
Jen Psaki: Trump misuses The People’s House for his personal political gain
The final night of the Republican National Convention did not disappoint Trump supporters looking for some conspiracy-theory-driven red meat.
It was capped by the President’s acceptance speech, for which he invited hundreds of people to fill out an audience and applaud him, disconcertingly seated close together with few masks in sight, at a time when his own government is recommending social distancing.
But what was most damaging to truth and to the traditions and norms of this quadrennial process was not the words delivered, but the visual of the President of the United States delivering a political speech on the White House lawn.
To put this in perspective, when President Barack Obama was campaigning for then-Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton, he made political calls from the White House residence instead of the West Wing. We had regular senior staff meetings to discuss travel by cabinet members to make sure none came close to crossing the optical line of using taxpayer dollars for political purposes.
Contrast this to 2020, when the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, gave a primetime convention speech from Israel.
And yet four years later, President Trump has set a new standard. By delivering his speech on the South Lawn, he has thrown away the long history of using official White House grounds for official business only–on behalf of all of the American people. But Trump has made the people’s house into a political house. And it may be hard to go back.
The conspiracy theories we will forget, but the visuals of a sitting President of the United States using the South Lawn for his most important campaign event of his presidency will leave lasting damage.
Douglas Heye: Trump showed how he can win — and debates will be crucial
The ultimate question is whether or not this convention, and Donald Trump’s speech, did what it needed to do — propel the President back into office by simultaneously doubling down on his base while reaching out to new voters or previous voters now unsure about how they might vote, and making a heavier appeal to African American voters than any Republican in well over a generation.
The convention in a sense was a tale of two parties — speakers who were optimistic and forward thinking, such as Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, North Carolina Congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn and Alice Johnson — and a series of “Festivus” style airing of grievances, from cancel culture to the state of western civilization, issues that obviously do not resonate with a broad swath of voters.
Of Trump’s speech, I’m reminded of an old Frank Sinatra song, “I’ve Heard that Song Before.” We’ve heard Trump’s song before, over and over. It was a greatest hits, if you will.
As Americans, we are divided into nearly equal tribes, with a small advantage to the Democrats, and as we see increasing violence win our streets, Trump knows that he, as President, is given a longer leash and benefit of the doubt if he quells the fiery images. His campaign is keenly aware that many of the voters most likely to respond to Trump’s message on this are the suburban voters he needs.
This all means that the three forthcoming debates may play a bigger role than debates have played in years.
Something must be said about the fact that the White House was repeatedly used as a partisan political prop, and the backdrop for the President’s nomination acceptance speech.
In countries throughout the world, where strong men and dictators dominate their people, this is a standard operating procedure.
But it’s not what we do here. It’s un-American. But I fear, regardless of November’s outcome, Trump has crossed another threshold from which the country won’t cross back.
David Gergen: Using the White House as a political prop is Trump’s latest abomination
If Americans can agree on anything about President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night, perhaps it is this: Never Again! The event on the South Lawn of the White House was not just inappropriate, it was an abomination.
Never again should we allow a president to commandeer the sacred grounds of our democracy for purely partisan political purposes.
It was especially galling because the Trump forces turned the evening into a slashing, graceless attack on Joe Biden. One might have thought that, once granted a unique opportunity, they would act in the spirit of the White House and South Lawn, each of which has grandeur.
They could have gone high; instead, they went low, trying to create an illusion that Trump is a president in the same league and with the same nobility as Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt.
Viewers could see from the opening moments there was trouble ahead. At a time when public health experts are trying to persuade Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing, they saw hundreds upon hundreds without masks and jostling close together.
Will they become spreaders? There is a good chance some could; what we know for sure is that they were sending terrible signals to the rest of the country.
Why should we give presidents an opportunity to exploit the White House by giving them the credibility and honor that come with holding an event there? We shouldn’t. Never Again!
Never again should a sitting president be able to commandeer one of the most sacred sites of our democracy and turn it into a political prop.
David Gergen has been a White House adviser to four presidents and is a senior political analyst at CNN. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he founded the Center for Public Leadership.
John Avlon: Trying to rebrand the White House, Trump contradicted himself
That’s a wrap on President Donald Trump’s reelection convention.
It was a slickly produced reality show with the White House all but rebranded as a Trump property. But it should have come with a warning about causing whiplash — because this was a convention of contradictions.
There were even attempts to present Trump as some kind of post-partisan president, with his daughter Ivanka proclaiming, “Where politicians choose party, our president chooses the people.”
Nice message — if only it were true.
Once Trump started speaking, any message of unity went out the window. He said: “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or whether we will allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”
The contradictions continued in Trump’s attempt to make this a choice election and not a referendum on his presidency.
He mentioned Joe Biden more than 40 times — simultaneously describing him as “weak” and so strong that he would be “a destroyer of American jobs and American greatness.”
Trump criticized Biden for authoring the tough 1994 crime bill — while also tarring him with predictions that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.”
But no Trump speech would be complete without some epic project-and-deflect: “Our opponents say that redemption for you can only come from giving power to them. This is a tired anthem spoken by every repressive movement throughout history,” he said.
It kind of reminds you of a claim Trump made at the 2016 RNC:
“I alone can fix it.”
We all know now how that turned out.
John Avlon is a senior political analyst at CNN.
Patti Solis Doyle: Ivanka Trump’s failed case for her father
Ivanka Trump’s job at the Republican National Convention was to humanize her father — to create a picture of a strong but empathetic man. I get it. She needs to help her father win back those suburban moms he is currently losing.
The President’s senior adviser explained away Trump’s mean tweets by loving him for being “real” and respecting him for being effective.
Still, Ivanka Trump did her best. She told us firsthand how much he loves his grandchildren, and shared a story about how he shows off the Lego White House replica her children built for him. She talked about the pain in her father’s eyes when he learns of more deaths from Covid-19. She described the President’s resolve during United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement negotiations.
Yada, yada, yada.
Am I being unfair? I don’t think so. You cannot show the American people exactly who you are for more than four years and then expect them to believe your daughter when she says you’re really a good guy.
And here’s another thing: we don’t just know Donald Trump. We’ve come to know Ivanka, too. Those months in early 2017 — back when we all hoped she’d moderate her father’s behavior — are long gone. Can we really believe the President’s daughter’s tales of her personal encounters with her father when, in the same breath, she tells us — in defiance of all fact and reality — that her father built the most robust Covid-19 testing system in the world? No, we cannot because he did not.
So is Ivanka Trump.